Monday, July 14

Weingarten moves up but not out

This morning Randi Weingarten, president of the UFT, was officially elected head of the national teacher’s union, the American Federation of Teachers. Weingarten has wielded enormous influence over the past decade as head of the 200,000-member New York union, where she plans to remain, although some question whether anyone can handle leading both unions at once – even a work-horse like Weingarten.

Weingarten speaking in June with Mayor Bloomberg and Chancellor Klein.

In New York, she secured a 43 percent raise for teachers, fought for smaller class sizes, and railed against high stakes testing. Weingarten’s relationship with the mayor depends on the issue: she’s not afraid to make a joint announcement with him in the morning and then blast another of his initiatives later that afternoon. And although she has generally been very popular among New York teachers, her tentative support of charter schools (she has even opened two of them) and support for merit-based pay is controversial among union members.

In her acceptance speech today Weingarten – the daughter of a teacher and a former part-time social studies teacher herself – argued that schools should become multi-service community centers, offering a lot more than just classroom instruction. That does sound better than test prep, but what's her plan to make such a dreamy vision actually happen on a large scale? And how will Weingarten stay focused on New York, now that she has vaulted to the national stage?

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